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Self-contained Box Gardens: 2-liter "Earth Bottle"?

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RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 21, 2013
4:27 PM

Post #9392817

I'm about to make 100 or so flower pots from 2 liter soda bottles, and was considering building a small reservoir into the bottom of each. My idea is to keep the plants from drying out too rapidly if the soilless mix holds too little water. I would be giving many of these these plants away, and expect some recipients to water them unreliably, and plant them into the ground late, or never. So the longer they can survive with marginal care, the better.

I'm a total newbie to EBs and HEBs, and not super-experienced with growing in pots or planters. I'm hoping for advice from people who know how these reservoirs work in practice.

What I do best is over-watering seedling in small cells, so I worry about drainage.

- I would drill or melt 1/4" holes about 1 1/2 inches up from the bottom of the 2 liter bottle, so there would be a small water reservoir.

- My "colander" would be the bottom 2" cut from a much smaller bottle, inverted and drilled with several small holes.

- The circumference between the small inverted bottle bottom and the 2 liter bottle bottom would be my wick.

- I'm planning for them to be top-watered until the reservoir fills, and some comes out the sides.

Since I use a fast-draining mix with lots of small bark nuggets, I worried about its ability to wick water all the way up a 7 inch soil column. I am considering adding a 6" strip of cotton flannel as a literal "wick". Or that might be an unnecessary concern.

If I don 't worry about aeration through the 7 inch deep soil, I might use more peat and pine fines (dust and small fibers). Then it would hold more water but the bottom few in c hes might become anaerobic.

lanakila

lanakila
Holly Springs, NC
(Zone 7b)

January 22, 2013
8:44 AM

Post #9393602

I've seen a lot of the 2-litre, self-watering setups where the bottle is cut about in half and the top inverted. Since you are using a chunky substrate I think the idea of using a wick is a good plan. I don't know if this link will post, but here's a similar version with a wine bottle. I think I'll try a few of these with some glass bottles I have.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/74576009/self-watering-planter-made-from-recycled

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 22, 2013
11:13 AM

Post #9393746

Rick,
This is a good tutorial I would recommend. Steer clear of any design that has all your potting mix sitting directly in the reservoir. The wick in this design will draw the water up into the soil bed. There has to be an air space between the bottom of the soil and the top of the water in the reservoir.

The only adjustment I would make to this design (to increase the reservoir capacity) would be to drill a hole through the reservoir, parallel to where the top screws on. Once the reservoir is filled to capacity, any excess water will drain out of the hole before it hits the bottom of the soil bed. This will increase the reservoir holding capacity.

Linda

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 22, 2013
3:56 PM

Post #9394009

>> 2-litre, self-watering setups where the bottle is cut about in half and the top inverted.

I saw a You-Video like that and didn't like the design. I'm hoping to come up with something as simple as possible, and I'm just aiming for a few ounces of water that will allow a little longer between waterings,

>> Steer clear of any design that has all your potting mix sitting directly in the reservoir. The wick in this design will draw the water up into the soil bed. There has to be an air space between the bottom of the soil and the top of the water in the reservoir.

That makes sense to me: submerged soil means drowned roots. I based my idea on the "inverted colander in a 5-gallon bucket" classic design. At least that way, the drown-root-zone is only a narrow strip of soilless mix.

>> Since you are using a chunky substrate I think the idea of using a wick is a good plan.

Sigh! Too bad. But I will probably make most of them that way, and add more bark fines and peat to the bottom 1/3 of any where I leave the wick out.

Any suggestions for wick material other than cotton flannel? All I saw in the link above were some photos, not instructions.

Einstein said:
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 22, 2013
10:48 PM

Post #9394363

What's simpler than cutting a bottle in half and inverting the top?

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 23, 2013
1:54 PM

Post #9395064

Maybe. I didn't see how the top fit snugly in to the bottom. Since they're both the same sze and the walls have finite thickness, it seemed to me they wouldn't fit.

I'm thinking of cutting the bottom 2" off a much smaller bottle (like 20 ounce) and dropping that upside-down into the 2 liter bottle to serve as a mini-colander.
fordpickup
Clinton, IN

January 25, 2013
8:47 AM

Post #9397169


Go to any store that sells oil lamps or lanterns ,the wicks will work. Maybe cheaper to buy a roll of cotten cord ,cut to lenth and twist some together to make a wick. Fred

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

January 25, 2013
11:42 AM

Post #9397290

>> a roll of cotten cord

Like Butchers' Twine? I hadn't thought of bundling it. Thanks, Fred!

I keep checking fabric departments for cotton yarn or batting, but the batting looks like it would fall aparft, and isn't super cheap, and seems usually sold in BIG rolls.
critterologist
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6b)

March 2, 2014
6:47 PM

Post #9780464

for smaller pots, acrylic yarn makes great wicks (and doesn't disintegrate like cotton twine would). I've been using cut strips of the cheap "micro fiber" towels sold in stacks at Sams/Costco for wicks in larger containers. An old acrylic blanket would work great that way also -- lifetime supply of wickign material! I've seen people use that sort of material as capillary matting, also.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

March 4, 2014
1:41 PM

Post #9781829

>> acrylic

Hah! Thank you. It felt so "plasticy" that I didn't think it w9ould absorb water.

>> acrylic yarn

I think I saw lots of that, including "thick" yarn.

Thanks!
critterologist
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6b)

March 4, 2014
7:59 PM

Post #9782067

glad I could help. I've tried the "natural fiber" route before somebody tipped me off... cotton string gets lots of algae on it and then disintegrates!

wanted to add that "mason twine" (comes in various colors at places like Home Depot) also makes excellent, long-lasting wicks and looks a little "cleaner" if you're fussy about that sort of thing (I don't think it's any more or any less effective than fuzzy yarn; it's just not fuzzy).

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

March 5, 2014
6:56 PM

Post #9782731

I'll think about "mason twine". I have "butchers twine" - twisted cotton.

But if "acrylic" wicks well, yarn and felt should meet my needs.

critterologist
Frederick, MD
(Zone 6b)

March 5, 2014
9:27 PM

Post #9782796

mason twine isn't cotton... I'm guessing it's some type of acrylic. strips of felt should work well also. I once purchased "real" capillary matting, and I'm not sure it was different than felt other than being uncolored and maybe a little looser in texture. Play with different things, and you'll find what suits you best.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

March 6, 2014
2:13 PM

Post #9783331

Thanks!

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